The digital transformation lies at the heart of today’s rapidly changing business environment, especially within the retail industry. The experience of a global pandemic has forced the retail sector to digitalise itself quickly to meet consumer expectations and secure its position and future in the global market. In this context, the Malta Business Bureau has embarked on the ToRRe project, short for ‘Building Towards Retail Resilience’, financed by the Erasmus+ programme. Its main goal is to help the retail sector reinvent itself in an increasingly digital world by providing it with the necessary tools to do so – digital skills. Digital skills not only expand the sector’s business reach but also allow it to adapt to the digital transformation challenge, which has completely redefined the market.
MBB CEO Joe Tanti stated, “The local retail sector is currently undergoing a rapid transformation – the digital transformation, propelled by the pandemic and the geopolitical uncertainty. Retail businesses are facing the challenge of competing in a highly digitalised market in which digital skills are a must. In collaboration with 5 other organisations based in Bulgaria, Ireland, Spain, and Malta, MBB is pushing to close the digital skills gap in the retail industry to ensure that it can meet the ever-changing and progressive expectations of today’s market”.
As part of the project’s research, MBB conducted surveys and interviews with both retail employers and employees as well as local experts. The survey results show that there is an evident lack of awareness on the digital skills gap that is present within the local retail sector, with only 36.8% of the respondents acknowledging such a fact. When asked for the most important digital skills that are needed for the future of the retail industry, digital marketing, social media, cybersecurity, online selling, and business intelligence emerged as the key skills based on the respondents’ results. Still, the fact that many the respondents were employees within the retail industry (78.9%), indicates a need to build retailers’ capacity to prepare for the digital transformation.
MBB had the pleasure to interview Chris Vassallo Cesareo, Managing Director of one of the biggest furniture businesses in the country Domestica Ltd with 20 years of experience in the retail sector. Mr Vassallo Cesareo described the current skills gap in the local retail industry as a “learning process” to which retailers must adapt to so that customers’ needs are met. Indeed, “Covid-19 has pushed us to become more tech-savvy to meet consumer demands”. Following the recent Industry Focus Series Consumer and Retail Conference, MBB has also liaised with EY Malta, which has vast experience in helping enterprises develop digital innovation. Confirming the importance of increasing digital skills, EY Partner Gilbert Guillaumier stated that once the pandemic mandated that shops had to close their doors and establish an online presence, having a digital presence became a “survival requirement” for 2 certain businesses. He also explained that despite recent shifts to online shopping, a number
of local retailers are observing that physical stores remain an important element in the retail experience. A customer’s shopping experience may start online and end in the physical outlet. In light of this, digital skills and customer experience remain more crucial than ever.
In this regard, after having identified the gaps that are holding retail businesses back, ToRRe will develop specifically tailored tools to address the digital skills gap present in the local retail industry. The knowledge gathered from the reporting phase of the project will feed into the online learning module which the partners will be discussing in the next stages of the project. The ultimate aim is to increase awareness and renew knowledge of basic yet fundamental digital skills for retail business owners and workers alike.